April 2, 2002 Vol. VI, No. 13

Music Alumna Michelle De Young Sings to the World

Mezzo-Soprano Shares in Two Grammy Awards This Year for Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording

Michelle De Young (right)was just a first-year Cal State Northridge music-voice major in 1990, singing a leading role in a campus adaptation of Moliere's satirical opera "Tartuffe." But a local music critic still took note of her performance, wisely telling readers they shouldn't be surprised to see De Young "showing up one of these days in the big time."

Who could have imagined just how much the Northridge alumna would fulfill that prediction. After a decade of building her career as a classical and opera recitalist to perform with some of the world's most renowned orchestras, the powerfully voiced mezzo-soprano hit another peak this spring by sharing in two Grammy Awards for classical music.

De Young was rehearsing in St. Louis in late February when she returned to her hotel room to catch the news on television: she would share Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording for her soloist work on the London Symphony Orchestra's acclaimed December 2000 recording of Hector Berlioz's epic Les Troyens (The Trojans).

"I just caught it on television. It was 10:30 at night, and I just started screaming. I couldn't believe we had won in both categories," recalled De Young, who sang the role of Queen Dido of Carthage under the direction of noted conductor Sir Colin Davis. The result was a four-CD set released by the orchestra's own LSO Live label.

While the latest accolades will only brighten the luster on De Young's career, the imposing six-foot-tall soloist even before was an emerging presence in the world of classical music. In just a three-month stretch this spring, she is slated to perform with different orchestras in New York, London, Scotland, France, the Netherlands, Holland, Belgium and Spain.

During her career thus far, De Young has performed with the symphony orchestras in New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and here with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as with the London Symphony, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal Philharmonic. She has worked for conductors including Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Leonard Slatkin and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Among the reviews, the San Francisco Chronicle in 1996 called her "quite a find-a creamy, warm and feminine column of sound that was only a pianissimo away from perfection." The Orange County Register dubbed one of her performances "enthralling." And the Opera News said De Young "sounded wonderfully golden and involved" singing Mahler at Carnegie Hall in New York last year.

All of that, however, might not have occurred without the support that De Young said she received during her 1990 to 1992 stay at the university from three Music Department faculty: the late Curt Allen, her voice teacher(right); professor emeritus David Scott, the legendary former director of the Northridge opera program; and music professor Elmer Heerema, a longtime family friend.

After a short stay at San Francisco State, De Young said she transferred to Northridge in spring 1990 because the university's Music Department was considered the best in the Cal State system at the time. Once here, she dove into preparations for a professional career in classical music, taking classes in music, acting and even German.

But it was Allen who spurred De Young to join the annual national auditions of New York's Metropolitan Opera. "He told me it was time for me to prepare for The Met competition," De Young recalled. "He was really the most encouraging, and had no doubt I would have a career. Having that gave me so much confidence."

Indeed, De Young then won the Los Angeles district competition, the regional competition and went on to become one of eight winners in the 1992 national competition for the United States, Canada and Australia. At the time, De Young was the eighth Northridge student in the previous two decades to have earned a trip to The Met's national competition.

Beyond just winning, De Young also was chosen by The Met for an ensuing three-year stint in the opera company's prestigious Young Artist Development Program. That meant leaving Northridge short of her degree and moving to New York for the start of a budding career. Allen just saw De Young's career begin to take flight before he died in 1993.

Today, De Young still has friends at the campus including Heerema, whom she calls an uncle, and Rada Jovicic, a music graduate student and Child Development Department staff member. "It was great. It was really great," De Young recalled of her time on campus. "Just all the experiences I had, and the encouragement I received from my voice teachers."

For those who can't catch one of her national performances, community members will have a chance to hear De Young on campus this summer. She is slated to return for an 8 p.m. June 8 performance in the Music Recital Hall benefiting her aunt, Tarzana resident Anna De Young, who was diagnosed with cancer late last year.

De Young, who recently bought a home in Colorado, sees herself continuing to divide time between concert recitals and opera performances. She would like to follow in the footsteps of another CSUN music alum, opera star Carol Vaness, by landing a major role with The Met. And sometime in the future, marriage and raising a family are personal priorities.

But for now, "I already sing with some of the greatest conductors and orchestras, and I'm very, very fortunate in that," De Young said. "I think I'm very, very pleased with my career. I really enjoy it. It's just at the right place. It's different all the time. Nothing is ever the same. And new things keep coming up that are very exciting."

Grammy Award-Winning Northridge Alumni
Michelle De Young
2002: Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording (with the London Symphony Orchestra) for "Berlioz: Les Troyens."
Diane Warren
1996: Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television for "Because You Loved Me" (the theme from "Up Close & Personal").
Tom Scott
1995: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance for "All Blues."
1974: Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists w/ Joni Mitchell for "Down to You."
Paula Abdul
1990: Best Music Video-Short Form for "Opposites Attract."
Andy Summers (The Police)
1983: Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal for "Every Breath You Take" and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal for "Synchronicity."
1981: Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Behind My Camel" and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal for "Don't Stand So Close to Me."
1980: Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Reggatta De Blanc."
Daryl Dragon (Captain and Tennille)
1975: Record of the Year for "Love Will Keep Us Together."

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